The 1965 Ford Falcon XP
The best Falcon to date and the last of this series, the XP, appeared in Australian Ford showrooms in March 1965. XP prototypes logged more than 473,900 miles of test and development work, the most concentrated program by any Ford Australia product to that time.
The suspension, which had been dramatically improved for the XM, was further enhanced on the XP by a new method of construction for the unitary body that incorporated "torque boxes." These were pressed steel box sections welded into the underbody that ran the full length under the passenger compartment, considerably increasing the strength of the whole structure.
In styling the XP, designers adopted the hood from the U.S. 1962-1963 Mercury Comet, which necessitated a new horizontal grille with bold chromed headlight surrounds and a straight-through bumper with the indicator lights on the corners at each end. The Ford name was spelled out across the leading edge of the hood in individual letters. Rear styling was carried over from the XM.
Three gearboxes were available on XP Falcons: the three-speed manual for the 144- and 170-cid engines; two-speed Fordomatic for the 170- and 200-cid engines; and the Fordomatic 3S that was phased in to replace the old two-speed imported unit. The 35 was manufactured by Borg-Warner and known in the industry as the Type 35. Ford adopted it as part of its local content plans. Being slightly wider, it required a modified floor plan pressing. Cars with automatic transmissions were identified by a small badge under the right rear light.
Equipment and trim levels remained much the same as before, beginning with the Standard and Deluxe. At first, the top-line models were badged as Futuras, but three months into production, the name was changed to Fairmont, a name that research showed had greater appeal to luxury car buyers. (Why the change of name took place after production began has never been answered.) Its introduction coincided with Ford's realigning of Falcon equipment to better match its two rivals, the Holden Premier and Chrysler Valiant Regal.
Also, the Squire wagon and its fake wood sides were consigned to history. Although it might have looked good on the showroom floor, the fiberglass cladding quickly deteriorated in the scorching Australia summer sun. Apart from chromed side sills and wheel arches, the Fairmont wagon's sides were unadorned.
Standard features on all Fairmonts included a 200-cid Super Pursuit engine matched to the Fordomatic 3S gearbox, power-assisted front disc brakes, and 6.45X14 tires on safety rims. Standard and Deluxe Falcon sedans and wagons retained their all-drum brakes and 6.50X13 tires. In response to customer and media criticism, the XP's spare wheel was relocated from its space-wasting position on the trunk floor to the left rear corner, where it lay at 45 degrees, thereby creating a much more usable luggage area.
In an effort to counter the Falcon's perceived lack of reliability and ruggedness, Bourke concocted what became know as the 70,000-Mile Durability Run held at the company's new proving ground.
"In retrospect, the Durability Run was a crazy gamble that paid off," said Max Gransden. "It was a bold attempt to establish the reliability of the XP Falcon and proved to be a great morale booster both within the company and the dealer body."
The Durability Run was a turning point for Ford and the Falcon series. On the next and final page read about how the event affected sales of the car.
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